Home 2017 Races Northam for Governor: Generating More Energy

Northam for Governor: Generating More Energy

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by A. Siegel

I will …

  • Encourage all I know to support Ralph Northam for Governor.
  • Work — including door-to-door — to get him elected.
  • Vote for him.

I see many reasons to support Ralph Northam.

Thus, I will work to get Ralph Northam elected with a clear conscience that his January 2018 inauguration as the next Governor of Virginia is the right thing for Virginia, Virginians and the nation.

With that said, there are many steps Ralph Northam could take to boost support and enthusiasm for his campaign. And, by boosting voter turnout for himself, he could also boost the chances of increased Democratic pickups in the House of Delegates — including through proposals that would enhance Virginia’s prospects in the coming years and decades. In particular, as discussed below, Northam and his campaign could detail a set of specific proposals linking climate, environmental, environmental justice, health, economy, education, and jobs — investment paths that would improve Virginia competitiveness while addressing our climate challenges.  These could include:

These are three examples of powerful investment paths that would create true Win-Win-Win solutions for challenges facing Virginia and Virginians, with significant payoffs for the Commonwealth in the years and decades to come.

However, while I will work to get Ralph Northam elected, I have recognized that I was wrong about something.  Along with virtually all of humanity, coming to that admission and stating publicly “I was wrong” is neither pleasant nor my favorite thing to do.  In the primary, I supported Tom Perriello.  In my endorsement, “choosing Tom“, I wrote:

While I expect to be helping get Tom Perriello elected as the next Governor of Virginia come November, I — and would hope this is true for all those concerned about climate change, clean energy, reality-based policy-making (as opposed to #AlternativeFacts’ dystopias) — will work just as passionately to get Ralph Northam elected if he is the nominee.

Again, though, I was wrong. While, as suggested above, I continue to see many positive reasons to support Ralph Northam — and even more negative reasons when considering the possibility of “Enron Ed” Gillespie as our next governor — I cannot honestly state that “I will work just as passionately” for Northam as I would have for Perriello. Nor do I expect that to be the case with anyone who is “concerned about climate change, clean energy”. Sadly, I fear that this is the case with a fairly broad segment of the electorate.

For those knowledgeable about climate change and energy issues, the front burner Virginia issue right now is clearly the set of fracked gas pipelines (Atlantic Coast & Mountain Valley) proposed by Dominion Power. These pipelines will do serious damage to fragile Virginia ecosystems, create additional and unnecessary fossil fuel infrastructure, contribute to worsening the climate situation, and undermine long-term Virginian economic prospects. Simply and bluntly, Ralph Northam is on the wrong side of history when it comes to this multi-billion-dollar, fossil-foolish infrastructure investment. And Northam is hearing this loudly from many concerned Virginians. Of course, “Enron Ed” isn’t better on the pipelines and is certainly worse, essentially across the board, on all energy/climate issues. Gillespie is fundamentally against any moves toward an “Energy Smart” Virginia (along with being on the wrong side of, well, essentially every issue of import to Virginians).  For the moment, in seeking to discuss my lessened enthusiasm for Ralph Northam, I am willing to “put the pipelines aside” as — to be honest — I see little chance in swaying Northam to change his stance due to certain union (primarily LiUNA) support and Dominion Power’s heavy investment in these projects.

But, pipelines aside, why am I not bursting with enthusiasm for Ralph Northam right now?

We could start by talking about what seems to be a lackluster campaign.  There seems to be a ‘let’s coast our way to victory’ attitude by at least some in the campaign staff and close Northam associates, if not Northam himself. While this post is not the place for a detailed discussion of this perception (which, based on conversations with involved Virginia Democrats isn’t isolated to this writer), a simple link provides a tangible example of why a reasonable person can have this view. Look at the campaign web page re “events.”  It should take only a few seconds. As I write this post, the most recent “event” posting is from July 27 — two weeks ago. The item prior to that is from… June 6, a week before the primary.  Obviously, a website isn’t the end-all, be-all of political campaigning, but is it unreasonable to take that as a sign of lackadaisical campaign efforts (by at least some of the campaign staff)?  Hint to the Northam campaign: step up YOUR game if you expect me (and others) to step up OUR game in terms of door-knocking/phone-banking/etc…

Turning to substance, the reality of our opportunities and challenges is that they are intertwined: systems-of-systems where understanding and emphasizing those interconnections and interactions can lead to far more valuable outcomes.  Staying again, for convenience sake, solely within the campaign website, it is hard to see where or how Ralph Northam emphasizes any of this.

My top concern space is climate — and the environmental, energy, technology, societal, business practice, etc. arenas associated with it. One of the notable elements over more than a decade related to climate/environment policy/discussion are serious efforts to move past a stove-piped understanding of these issues. The simplest construct is that it is NOT environment vs. economy but Environment AND Economy.

The intertwining and reinforcing nature of linking environment AND economy is, well, hard to see when perusing the Northam campaign website.  Look at the environment and economy for all issue pages. Hmmm …

  • In the “environment” page, there is “renewable energy production” which — sort of obviously — relates to economy. But that paragraph doesn’t point out that solar and wind are serious job creators, that energy efficiency investments translate to monetary savings and improved competitiveness and jobs…
  • In the “Economy for All” page, climate and clean energy and environment show up, well…not at all.

These are seriously interconnected spaces, where smart policies/proposals could offer serious payoffs for Virginia and, in fact, the Northam campaign’s electoral prospects.  As per the introduction, here are three examples of tangible examples of systems-of-systems environment/economy proposals that Ralph Northam can – and should -embrace/promote.

  • Greening Schools
    • Greening schools might be the most cost-effective path toward improving school performance. In fact, it might be the only educational achievement-enhancing path that is also “profitable” (due to energy and operational cost benefits) even without considering the secondary (job creation, student/teacher health) and tertiary (pollution levels, capacity building for energy efficiency and other ‘green’ across the country) benefits.
    • Note that:
      • A ‘greening schools’ program can fit strongly with Northam’s STEAM concepts, create jobs, help address environmental justice issues and economic disparity (with additional greening support as a path to help improve educational performance in less-wealthy districts), improve energy resiliency, improve health, reduce pollution, and save taxpayers’ money.
      • Improving K-12 educational achievement is a top-notch path for improving economic performance (from attractiveness to businesses to job creation to …) and, again, a major program to green schools could secure these payoffs even while saving money.
  • Leveraging VW settlement funds for a PHEV/EV School Bus program
    • VW’s diesel fraud led to a major settlement — which includes $87M for the Commonwealth “to fund environmental improvement and air pollution reduction projects.” That is a targeted “trust fund for use on projects to improve the environment by reducing air pollution in the transportation sector.”
    • Virginia’s school buses are an excellent target for this fund.  School buses are fuel hogs, spew diesel fumes, and worsen student/public health.  Transitioning to plug-in hybrid electric school buses and electric school buses would have tremendous payoffs in terms of reduced pollution (from cancer-causing particulates to CO2 to noise), reduced damage to student (and public) health, improved grid stability, emergency response value, and financial savings.
      • Notes:
        • Dominion Power and other Virginia electric utilities should be supportive of such a program as it translates to increased electricity demand (while reducing diesel demands)
        • A strong program could create numerous jobs: Virginia, as a driver in PHESB/ESB introduction (that would drive down prices due to economies of scale), could demand suppliers (manufacturers) have work content (set up facilities) in the Commonwealth.  And, those facilities could end up exporting buses to other states — after Virginia’s program has create enough demand to drive down costs via economies of scale.
  • Championing a major acceleration of Virginia offshore wind:
    • For those of us who closely watch the energy domain, the dramatic price falls in offshore wind have been a pleasant surprise over the past few years.
      • Seriously, I do not recall a conversation from the early 2010s that postulated any offshore wind project delivering at below 10 cents per kWh (might not have been in the right conversations but …) and, well, we are now seeing hard bids for well under that in Europe.
      • Key players in offshore wind are bidding into projects in the United States … able to take their lessons from Europe and apply them here.
    • Virginia hasn’t been the “go-to place” for offshore wind for multiple reasons:
      • cheap electricity rates;
      • lukewarm (at best) Dominion Energy engagement;
      • no mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) or carbon price; etc.
    • Virginia can/should be a lead offshore wind energy player.
      • The dramatic price drops in wind power, along with the burgeoning programs up the coast, should help to change this in terms of Virginia government priority.
      • Among other things, offshore wind power development would help secure the Tidewater region (with its excellent harbor, extensive shipbuilding/manufacturing capacity, etc …) as the nation’s (or at least the East Coast’s) leading industrial/logistical support hub for what will likely be a booming industry for years/decades to come.

These are just three examples of environment AND economy proposals, with tremendous benefits for Virginians and Virginia, that Ralph Northam can — and should — embrace. Showing that he “gets” the environment/economic interaction (rather than opposition or separation), along with substantive proposals for action in these veins is a way for Ralph Northam to generate enthusiasm in this Virginian voter, and possibly many others as well.

Notes:

  • Energizing America: This draft 2008 speech about how focusing on energy smart solutions would boost the economy, improve security, and address climate challenges could easily be updated and redrafted for the Governor’s race … providing the ‘systems’ interlinkages absent, currently, from Northam’s issues page.